Short Films in Focus: Breaking Silence | Features | Roger Ebert

The short documentary “Breaking Silence” focuses on the plight of the deaf community in prison and their lack of resources within the system. They don’t have enough translators or anyone in the facilities to help these inmates communicate or understand their needs. Lawyers often hesitate to take their cases. The prisoners often find themselves agreeing to things they wouldn’t normally agree to just so they can get through whatever process they need to get through. It’s a part of prison life that most people would never give much thought, but Amy Bench and Annie Silverstein’s documentary puts the spotlight on the subject via a father and daughter who have been through the experience and are doing something about it.

Walker Estes has been a deaf advocate for much of his adult life. He travels out to many prisons in the south and speaks to inmates about their frustrations about the system that too often fails them. Finally, these people have someone working on their behalf to make their days a bit more bearable, even if he’s just someone who can do nothing but listen. Sometimes that’s enough. Walker’s daughter, Leslie, a CODA (child of deaf adult) with a troubled past, has been through the prison system herself and is now out on parole. She has seen it all firsthand and now that she has grown older and wiser, works with her father to help deaf inmates, many of whom are trying to start their lives over now that they’re out. They need people like Walker and Leslie to make sure they have a smooth transition back into society and don’t fall into certain legal traps.

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